Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.

Culture: DogPatch
10 Years of Modern Dog Culture
The evolution of an era

Ten years ago, The Bark set out to chronicle a growing societal movement, one we came to call the modern dog culture. Though we started the magazine as part of our advocacy for off-leash dog parks, we didn’t limit ourselves to that topic. And, as we tackled other dog-related subjects we noticed the emergence of a new way of living with dogs that enthralled and fascinated us. Taking “Dog Is My Co-Pilot” as our motto because it said so perfectly what we felt to be true, we began our exploration of this phenomenon.

From the start, we filled the pages of The Bark with smart writing, insightful commentary, great fiction and personal essays, expert advice, humor, poetry, art, and much more. In short, we created a magazine that had everything we wanted to read, and its canine-centricity inspired the best from our contributors, and attracted thousands of like-minded readers. We have long taken pride in creating a publication that not only reflects the voice of its time but that also showcases the esteem we feel for dogs—its a payment of sorts on the debt we feel is owed them.

Dogs have been our best friends for millennia, but this relationship has undergone a remarkable transformation during the past few years as their role in our lives is redefined and expanded. Long our helpmates and trusted companions—valued for their “worthiness” by hunters, shepherds and herdsmen as well as by the aristocracy with its pampered pups—dogs nonetheless occupied a place that was distinct and separate from that claimed by humans. The relationship was primarily viewed in terms of the degree of utility and value that dogs had to us.

Today, dogs are more fully integrated into the fabric of our daily lives. Though their capacity to help us is perhaps even more relevant now as we discover the full range of their abilities, there is something else in play, a different kind of co-species togetherness that goes beyond the functional. It is almost a re-enactment of the dawn of our two species, when proto-human and proto-dog helped one other along their evolutionary pathways.

Dog lovers are tending to the emotional needs of their dogs, enriching their minds, exercising their bodies, providing them with social stimulation, feeding them nutritious foods—in short, they are nurturing and caring for their dogs as true and equal family members. Even though we recognize and celebrate the “otherness” of dogs, we are also gratified to see that the distance between our two species is being reduced. This, in turn, makes us better able to treat dogs (and all animals) with compassion and respect.

So, we thought, what better way to showcase what we mean by dog culture—and to celebrate our 10th anniversary—than by presenting an array of our “Editors’ Picks,” articles and stories that reflect the best examples from our vast collection. Check here for weekly updates, and stay tuned—we’ll be telling you the stories behind the stories and providing other flavorful and tantalizing insights.

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Walk Your Dog in Washington, DC's Congressional Cemetary
Good works, good walks

For 200 years, Washington, DC’s, 32-acre Congressional Cemetery—privately owned by the Episcopal church—has provided a resting place for many Americans, from notables such as Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover to the laborers who helped construct the nearby Capitol, as well as lawmakers who served there.

By the early 20th century, Congressional’s popularity was eclipsed by that of the national cemetery at Arlington (built on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s estate in 1883). Sadly, “Congressional was forgotten,” according to John Philip Sousa Pugh, great-grandnephew of the composer, and it suffered from neglect and vandalism. Then, about 20 years ago, dogs (and their people) “rescued” it. What makes this cemetery and its arrangement with an OLA group so unique and worthy of our highest praise is how well this partnership works. A third of the cemetery’s annual operating income is generated by the fees that the off-leash recreationists pay for access privileges: $125 a year, plus $40 per dog.

Appropriately, this covers the costs for all the lawn maintenance! Besides the annual dues, members of this K-9 Corps must agree to follow simple rules, which include use restrictions during burials and funerals. The dog people also help with conservation and preservation efforts, and have proven to be not only great fundraisers, but effective vandalism deterrents too. Recently, 100 dogs dressed as historic characters helped celebrate the cemetery’s bicentennial, and their people carried signs with slogans such as “Abraham Lincoln Liked Mutts.” We salute them!